NASCAR America: Talladega as non-cutoff race, Truex’s plate jinx

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NASCAR Cup points leader Martin Truex Jr. is riding high. He’s coming off his sixth win of the season at Charlotte, which earned him a berth in the Round of 8, and comes into Talladega this weekend truly in the driver’s seat.

This year’s race at NASCAR’s longest track is unique. In the last few playoffs, Talladega has been a cut-off race in the second round. This year, it’s not — it’s the middle race of the Round of 12.

In addition, stage racing is going to once again be important for drivers who need to prop up their chances of advancing to Round 3 of the playoffs. Truex leads all drivers with a massive 19 stage wins. Can he make it 20 or 21?

Our NASCAR America analysts — Brian Vickers, Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan — talked about that on Thursday’s show.

Heading into this weekend’s race, Truex holds a rather unique record of sorts: he’s 0-50 in restrictor plate race starts at Talladega and Daytona. Because he’s already locked into the Round of 8 with his win Sunday at Charlotte, Truex could coast at ‘Dega. But don’t expect him to do so. He wants that elusive plate race win and the bonus points that go with both winning the race as well as either (or both) of the two stages.

So, given that Truex said Wednesday that he needs to be more of a “jerk” — otherwise known as being more aggressive — at ‘Dega, will he actually do so? And if he does, could he make enemies that might make his road to Homestead-Miami tougher?

Kyle, Nate and Brian discussed that, as well in the video below:

Denny Hamlin posts fastest lap in Saturday morning Cup practice

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LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin had the fastest lap in Saturday morning’s Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leading the field with a lap of 132.942 mph.

He was followed by Ryan Blaney (132.526 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (132.462), Kyle Busch (132.406) and Kevin Harvick (132.356).

Harvick ran the most laps at 50. Harvick told NASCAR on NBC broadcaster Rick Allen in the garage that he ran so many laps to see how much the speed falls off as the tires wear. Jimmie Johnson was next with 42 laps run.

There were no incidents in the 50-minute session.

Ryan Blaney had the best 10-lap average at 131.767 mph.

Click here for the speed chart.

Start time of Sunday’s Cup race moved up to 1 pm ET

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LOUDON, N.H. – The start time for Sunday’s Cup race has been moved up to 1 p.m. ET because of the threat of rain, NASCAR announced.

NBCSN will broadcast the race. NBCSN’s coverage begins at noon ET.

The forecast for 1 p.m. ET Sunday calls for a 49 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms. There is a threat of rain throughout the day.

Kurt Busch won the pole for Sunday’s race.

Two Cup teams to be penalized practice time Saturday at New Hampshire

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LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne each will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for inspection issues, NASCAR announced.

Hamlin is being penalized for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice last weekend at Kentucky. Kahne is being penalized for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice Friday at New Hampshire.

Final practice is scheduled to go from 12:35 – 1:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

NASCAR’s Saturday schedule for New Hampshire Motor Speedway

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Today’s schedule at New Hampshire Motor Speedway includes two Cup practice sessions and the Xfinity Series race at the “Magic Mile.”

Here’s the full schedule with TV and radio info.

(All times are Eastern)

Saturday, July 21

7 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. — Cup garage open

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. — Cup practice (CNBC)

11:05 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (CNBC)

12:35 – 1:25 p.m. — Final Cup practice (NBCSN)

1:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

3:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver introductions

4 p.m. — Lakes Region 200 Xfinity race; 200 laps/211.6 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)